Sometimes it's not about *how* you put the full 60-minute effort together...it's just that you get the job done.
Such was the case for the Blue Jackets tonight at Madison Square Garden in a game that was ripe with story lines heading into it, but the reality was that those involved in the story lines could not wait for the puck to drop and get this game over with. The most important momento of all, they said, was to pick up two points in a division opponent's building and continue climbing the ladder in Metropolitan Division standings.
On this night, it was mission accomplished for the visitors.
The Blue Jackets roared out of the gate, scoring three first-period goals and chasing Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from the net before the game was 12 minutes old. Matt Calvert got it started with a quick snap shot off the rush 38 seconds into the game, beating Lundqvist over the shoulder and putting the Rangers back on their heels before everyone could take their seats.
And the Blue Jackets kept adding on. Artem Anisimov, playing his first game back at MSG since being traded in July 2012, cashed in on a 3-on-1 rush (on a delayed penalty, no less) started by Blake Comeau. Comeau made the play in the neutral zone and found Anisimov coming down the back side, and Anisimov rifled it past Lundqvist to make it 2-0 Columbus.
The final shot Lundqvist saw in this game was off the stick of David Savard. It was a broken play in the Rangers' zone and the puck fluttered out to the right point, where Savard stepped in and sent a wrist shot through traffic that eluded Lundqvist to the high blocker side. At that moment, the score was 3-0 but it felt like even more and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had no choice but to change goaltenders - and it very nearly worked out.
Columbus held a 3-1 lead late into the third period, but the Rangers got a timely goal from Dan Girardi off the rush (4-on-4) that made it 3-2 with 8:53 to play. New York was feeling good, skating much better than it had early in the game, and put its best push forward in the final minutes, until Ryan Johansen made them pay for a big mistake.
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh tried to keep the play alive at the Jackets' blue line, but Johansen beat him to the puck and took off on a semi-breakway. He then snapped his 11th goal of the season through the arm of Cam Talbot with 1:32 to play, giving the Blue Jackets a 4-2 lead and a little more breathing room down the stretch.
With the victory, the Blue Jackets pulled even at 31 points with the Rangers and are one point out of third place in the Metropolitan Division standings. They've won four of their past five games overall.
NOTE: Blue Jackets goaltender Curtis McElhinney started tonight's game but departed after the first period with a lower-body injury. McKenna finished the game and made 17 of 18 saves in relief.
Chasing Lundqvist and racing out to a 3-0 lead was almost not enough for the Blue Jackets, and they needed one last major momentum swing to put the game away. The Rangers were trying to get Talbot on the bench, but McDonagh's misplay at the line allowed Johansen to score the biggest goal of the game in the dying moments. Huge goal at a huge moment.
1. MATT CALVERT (CBJ)
Calvert got the Jackets going with a huge goal on the first shift of the game, and things started rolling from there. It was his third goal in as many games and a beauty that Lundqvist barely picked up.
2. RYNA JOHANSEN (CBJ)
Johansen's team-leading 11th goal and 25th point could not have come at a better time. That line was strong once again for Columbus, despite not being rewarded on the scoresheet until late in the game.
3. ARTEM ANISIMOV (CBJ)
Not a bad way to return to the arena you used to call home, eh? Anisimov scored an important goal in the first period and was part of a tenacious third line with Jenner and Comeau. He played 16:08 and was +1 in his first game back at MSG.
VS. ST LOUIS BLUES
SATURDAY, 7 P.M.